“Most of us are good starters, but poor finishers…failure cannot cope with persistence” – Napoleon Hill
The first time I heard the term “the last mile” was relatively early in my electronics career when a customer was speaking of how difficult it was to connect all internet users at “the last mile”. What he was referring to was a phrase used in the telecommunications industry of the final leg of physically getting copper wire run to every single house so that every house in the world could communicate with every other. Maybe not a big deal in New York City or L.A. where everyone lives in close proximity of one another, but another challenge all together on a farm on the plains.
It is a similar problem for moving things like electricity, water, even packages (easy to fly a plane full of packages between airports, but need lots of vehicles to get them from their pickup point and out to their final destination).
When I first heard this I thought about how much it applied to life in general. Sometimes as I have previously written about it is quite difficult to even get started, but how many things have you taken to 80 or 90% and just never put forth that final effort to finish up…that last mile can be a killer sometimes.
So the challenge is one of perseverance…how do you push through when you really just want to quit?
Try this…I think I got it from this Tim Ferriss podcast with Josh Waitzkin: sometimes people will slack off at the end of a workout or at the end of a workday knowing that they are headed home. Instead, try focusing the hardest on the last 3 things you are doing and you will carry that with you as you sleep overnight, as you drive in the car, etc. Your body is now focused on precision and your body will subconsciously think that way instead of being sloppy.
Keep pushing through…this is what we mean when we talk about creating separation…that finish line is in sight!
“Coffee is for closers” – Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross
Water boils at 212F…any more than that doesn’t boil it any more than it already is!
- If you are in a race, you only need to be a fraction of a second faster than everybody else…winning by 30 minutes makes you no first-er
- In basketball and football you just need 1 more point than the other team, in baseball just one more run…in fact if you are up by a wide margin, you sit your best players to let them rest
- Maybe you don’t need to study at all to get a C, but need to study 40 hours to get an A…what’s it worth to you and what are your alternative options with that 40 hours?
The point is, you need to understand what it takes to get ahead and work toward that. Just working hard with no knowledge of what it takes to achieve your goal may make you severely over work or maybe even under perform.
So, the question really is…what is the minimum effective dose that it will take to achieve the outcome that you really want?
Back in 1955 a British naval historian by the name of Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote his first article on what would eventually become Parkinson’s Law which states the following: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion”…without producing significantly better results.
The basic idea here is this…don’t take 30 days to do something that can be done almost as well in 24 hours. Work will always expand to meet the hours in a day that you give it. So, work with a deadline, even if it is an artificial one. Shrink your timelines…constraints are a good thing…they force you to do more with less.
So, the next time you are given a project, severely shrink your timelines and you will be shocked at what you can achieve. You can see this in practice every day by all of the greatest companies and inventors…Elon Musk with SpaceX and Tesla, Jeff Bezos at Amazon, etc. One of the greatest inventors ever even took it a step further…Thomas Edison would talk about his ideas to the media before they were even ready…this would force him to get after it and stay on task.
One way to tackle this is to consider that the hardest thing to do is get started. If you can get the wheels in motion, consider that you might be able to get a project 85-90% of the way along in 24 hours, but the entire project may take 30 days. The second hardest thing to do is to conquer that last mile. So, maybe you can get things to 85-90% and hand off or outsource that last 10-15% that eats up more of your time.
So, continually apply Parkinson’s Law to find the shortest feasible path to completion, given the necessary trade-offs required by the work. Soon, you’ll be wondering what to do with all of your free time! Here’s one of the best posts I feel I’ve written on how to Get To It!
If you want to create separation between yourself and your competitors, it’s time to think differently. Here are 5 fabulously written theories on how to focus and invest your time and effort…
1000 True Fans:Brilliantly written by Kevin Kelly a while back, the basic point is if you can find 1,000 True Fans for whatever it is you are doing, you are off and running.
No, but really, How Do I Get an Agent: One of my favorite short reads from Brian Koppelman (the co-writer of Rounders, Billions, and a lot of other fun stuff). What he is trying to get across is just making something great won’t sell it, but if you put in the work, anything is possible. Don’t think you can just create something and everyone will beat a path to your door…it doesn’t work that way!
Hell Yeah, or No by Derek Sivers: Derek Sivers wrote this clever post that can be summed up by the title itself. Your time is precious…if you can’t say “Hell Yeah, I really want to do that” to something, just say “No”…you will be much happier for it and be able to put much more time into the “Yes’s”
Small Wins by Karl E. Weick: One of my favorite articles was written in 1988 by Karl E. Weick on the power of small wins. Others have written articles on the same subject, but this one is my favorite. The overall idea is that taking small bites out of a bigger more daunting challenge will get you where you want to go, whereas just trying to jump to the top in one giant stroke is near impossible. It’s a little bit of a longer read, but I posted a quick summary here too if you want to check it out…Law #5: Small Wins
Becoming an Idea Machine: My last in this list is a great post from James Altucher who talks about just coming up with 10 Ideas a Day. To keep yourself fresh and relevant, you should work every day to come up with 10 new ideas (not nearly as hard as it seems…read on). It’s a little longer, but worth the read, but I’ve also summarized it here at 10 Ideas a Day